LCMS Lutherans and Evolution


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(Peaceful Science) #42

Technically you may be right. But this happens all the time. Just look at the ID people that come through the forums. They are misusing ID this way all the time. They are not exceptions. This is the standard pattern in the church, even if many ID leaders think of ID in different ways. So, perhaps all these churchgoers are wrong, but that is how ID is expressed in the church in many (most?) cases.

This is not what he is saying at all. He is not “handing description of the world” to secular thought. He is not saying that faith and reason do not interact. He is not restating NOMA. That is just a misreading of his point.

Instead, he is saying there is a deep line between theological claims and scientific claims. And I would entirely agree. To say that life is “designed” is, in the context we are talking about, always a theological claim. This claim is strong, certain, and evidentially based. And it is entirely independent of any conclusions that science comes to. Even if science concludes on “undirected” evolution, this is sharply not a theological claim, nor could it ever rightly be. To be clear, both are claims about this world. So it is not that he is ceding descriptions of the world to science. Theology describes our world too!

This capacity to keep two worlds of language and perspective at play at the same time is one of the great strengths of Lutheran though, and something that you are missing entirely in misinterpreting him. Believe what you will, but it does not help to misrepresent others in the process.

You are entitled to your opinion, but I think this is very dismissive of a very important concern. It is a pervasive problem in the church that ID is used exactly in this way to support a dangerous theological outlook. Of course, the misuse of a thing does not negate its proper use. I certainly agree that ID can be handled correctly, in principle, but it is not overreacting to recognize the pervasive theological misuse of this particular movement in the church.

What do you think @JustAnotherLutheran?


A great many things! That there’s some talking past one another by all parties. That there are few questions being asked with genuine interest in the answers but a great deal of point-counterpoint in an attempt to gain the upper hand. That where I presently reside - to my joy - is much warmer than Minnesota at this time of year. That this topic has shifted from the LCMS and evolutionary theory to the LCMS and the ID movement. I confess my own guilt in all such matters!

Nevertheless, I think we’ve wandered over several topics I’m very interested in: Lutherans and natural theology as understood historically, exegetically, systematically, and practically; Lutherans and the ID movement; Lutherans and YEC; Lutherans and the question of theodicy (in relation to evolution and questions of God’s justice, mercy, and the freedom/bondage of the human will); Lutherans and the Fundamentals; Lutherans and the unity of truth in God; etc.

I think I would quite enjoy responding to each and every accusation and question, and in that regard, the above dialogue was great for brainstorming topics for theological reflection and possible future threads. However, it has shown the possible need for “rules” (dependent on the topic, the goal of the conversation, those interacting in the conversation, etc.). I could certainly benefit from a degree of accountability, among other things. I’ll be taking some things into mind whenever it is I end up creating a topic of my own.

If I may be so bold as to ask a question: In a paragraph or two, what questions and conclusions have people following this discussion come to?


I, of course, deeply appreciate Saleska (but I’m biased since he’s both a very nice guy and a Lutheran to boot). In the short post of his which you cite, what I particularly like is his emphasis on the Creator-creature relationship as depicted in the poetry of the Psalms. It is contrary to much of the speculative theologizing done by the likes of, for example, Thomas Aquinas and David Hollaz. This is apparent in his quote from the irreverent but apt Eagleton (whom I thought of quoting earlier, but I left my copy of Culture and the Death of God elsewhere). But that’s a discussion for another day, I suspect.


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(Phil) #46

Your church sounds a lot like mine. The only time creation topics come up, is usually when one of the YEC folks make a comment here and there. This past year, our pastor noted that the rise of race issues is something that has been central, and it was a total surprise to him that it was something we would be dealing with at this point. Sexuality is also a big issue that the church is dealing with, but evolution, not so much in the day to day life.

Merry Christmas to you also!


I’ve heard catechism classes, among other learning moments in congregations, centered on the subject, and within all three denominations I’ve known with a degree of intimacy (LCMS, WELS, and EFree). I’ve heard popular podcasts on the subject. I’ve heard profs discuss it from undergrad to grad. I’ve heard people who participate in the education of Christians discuss it along with people training to be future pastors. And by “it” I mean the topic of origins, ID, and YEC. Often with a litmus test for orthodoxy being one’s agreement with people like Ken Hamm and writers from the DI and AIG (among others). And I open a paper from time to time (whether virtually or tangibly) and hear plenty in the science news about (specifically) Christians doing odd things, like trying to get ID proposed in schools.

Same. But that is hardly a vaccine to the topic. It’s a common experience that people in general enjoy holding stalwart opinions about things they’ve spent little time investigating. (E.g., numerous people with no expertise in the sciences/theology/philosophy who make claims thereof.)


ID is to me, and others of my ilk, something which ought to be subjected to the traditional polemics of theology when it is employed by Christians - especially academic Christians - for Christian/theological purposes (and to the polemics of the natural sciences at all times). In part because theology is never isolated to ivory towers (or specially made tables, in the case of Aquinas). At least proper theology isn’t. Theology, if it is proper theology, always seeks to serve the worship and practice of the church at large. But even poor theology manages its way into the laity and does its best to poison the proclamation. Since we’re dealing with eternities when it comes to the proclamation, this topic must be broached with seriousness, rigor, and at least a degree of winsomeness.

That’s fair. Civility ought never to be in want. Nevertheless, even hostility may have some valid origin which should likewise be investigated in a grad seminar. What do you teach?

As to Luther and the Wittenberg theologians (speaking generally of the majesteria/the interaction between philosophy and theology), Bayer astutely notes:

Luther persistently refuses to teach that there is a double truth. He denies that “the same proposition can be true in philosophy and false in Christian theology, and vice versa.” Yet he rejects the speculation that everything is one, even if that speculation is grounded in the confession to Christ… The Wittenberg theological faculty consciously opposed the Sorbonne, the stronghold of scholastic theology. In the disputation [Disputation Concerning John 1:14] they argued against the proposition put up by the Paris theologians that “the same thing is true in theology as in philosophy and vice versa.” They mounted the counter-thesis “that the same thing is not true in theology and philosophy. For we know that it is one thing to understand, another to believe. Therefore, philosophy and theology are distinguished. It is the task of philosophy to understand by use of reason; it is the task of theology truly to believe what is above all reason.”

We follow much in the footprints of Ockham and St. Paul, and in contradistinction to Aquinas. That’s all I’ll say on the matter this year.

(Peaceful Science) #48

That is exactly. My biggest concerns about ID are its effect on the church, which is different that talking points by leaders in the movement. I understand and agree, for example, that ID is not a good foundation with faith (Demski make this point). However, in the Church, for many students in particular it does function like a foundation for faith. And it is a very weak foundation.

Well that is a major the differenc been you and us.

Many of us have been kicked out of denominations and churches for our positions on origins. This is certainly a common situation in the Church.

There is no frantic reation by me.[quote=“Eddie, post:45, topic:26225”]
Why would any Christian get so angry over a view which is at worst a new variation on the teleological argument for the existence of God? And there’s no question that many ECs are angry with ID. The anger can be felt all the way across cyberspace to where I’m sitting.

And I am not angry about ID. Not at all.

I am just seeking to truthfully explain mainstream science to the Church, and to explain how confident faith in Jesus is not threatened by mainstream science. And it has no need for science of any sort for confidence.

Returning this to Lutherans (and once again I request that non-Lutheran focused posts be moved to other threads). I’ve found that many agree with these concerns and points, even if they reject evolution. That is encouraging.



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(George Brooks) #50


When a whole industry emerges out of the midst and mists of Young Earth Creationists it strikes a great many sober Christians that something intellectually dishonest is happening!

You appear to think the fact these ID proponents have not joined the ranks of BioLogos supporters because BioLogos supporters are just too vague - - which is hilarious when you remember the mantra of the ID supporters: we’re not attempting to say anything about the identify of the Intelligent Creator!

Wow … talk about vague!

So let us get this straight, Eddie.

You think BioLogos leaders are damaging their mission because they won’t spell out their metaphysical positions… but you think ID supporters are rock solid inspirations by not spelling out their position on what Intelligence designed creation and when this intelligence accomplished it.

Eddie, I think I can smell Denmark from here…


When have I failed to spell out my personal position?

My answer to the first question is: The designer is God.

My answer to the other question is: The designing took place In eternity, not in time, but translated inaccurately into our time-frame, it occurred somewhere “before” 14 billion years ago, i.e., before the Big Bang.

And my answer to your unspoken question, re execution: “By a combination of clever front-loading, natural causes, and direct divine manipulation of events extended over the whole course of the universe.”

And of course, I am offering all of this merely as my opinion, not as something I can “prove” scientifically any more than Darwinian evolution can be “proved” scientifically. It’s merely my theological narrative about evolution. However, I would defy anyone to show where it is incompatible with Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran or any even approximately orthodox Christian faith.

Now see if you can convince some more of the EC leaders to offer their own personal and rival narratives. I’m out of that business as of Jan. 1, 2017, but I pass my mantle down to you, as I depart in my chariot of fire to take up other and higher activities. :slight_smile:

(Marvin Adams) #52

being a nominal lutheran from Germany living in the UK and visiting the CofE which is conveniently across the road I would suggest you to look at the document from the EKD

If we are to counter those who try to use evolution as a concept to prove God obsolete it is important to point out that the process of evolution based on survival of the fittest shows that those that survive the process are those who are beneficial to creation itself as set out in the law to love thy neighbour like thyself. To love them like one loves oneself as an individual is a logical fallacy as it prevents a mother sacrificing herself for the sake of her future self, e.g. selflessness is a fundamental concept in the procreation and thus evolution. Survival of the fittest based on selfishness by eliminating competitors is an imploding function whilst selfless love is an integrating, thus exploding function. How it works can be seen in any ecosystem by analysing the interdependency on a “small scale”, demonstrating how the complexity and interdependencies within it stabilises the system bit also how the elimination of a single element can tip it over.

Having said that, we have to overcome the materialistic thinking that the material survival of individual elements of creation is detrimental to creation as whatever dies physically stays part of creation and is “recycled”. Thus physical death is not a problem to material creation as it enables it to persist. If you would eliminate physical death an in an utopian model of reality and would overcome resource limitation someone modeled that you would after about 4000 years of replication with 4 offsprings per generation have filled the entire observable universe with human bodies just from their space requirements.

(George Brooks) #53

Yes… that is the best answer, @Eddie.

But does that mean you accept that it took millions of years for God to manifest his designs into physical reality?


Apologies for being so late to the party, gentlemen. I joined the LCMS in 2003 and only recently moved to embracing EC. I found your old conversation because I was looking for anyone else in the LCMS who shared my struggle with our cosmology. Forgive me if I’m taking you back a bit but as there seem to be few LCMS voices, I thought I’d add mine.

I love our confessions and don’t really see them in conflict with EC as they don’t really address Creation/Cosmology. It’s when we fast-forward as @JustAnotherLutheran mentioned to our chief dogmatician F. Pieper where the 6 24-hr day calendar week creation was codified. This was further doubled down on by our Brief Statement_ and subsequent synodical convention resolutions. It really has put us square in the Conflict framework from which I believe it will not only be difficult to get untangled but will also contribute to the steady decline of our numbers. We can’t teach otherwise, at parish, university, or seminary level.

I felt the pressure in my former congregation because one dear senior member was a YEC scientist who pushed hard for regular YEC seminars in our church. He also oversaw the library which guaranteed the materials were in line with YEC and AiG teaching. The pastor’s brother-in-law also was a YEC apologist which meant we received regular reinforcement of the synodical position.

Since you all last wrote, an interesting example occurred when the Concordia Journal published an article in the Winter 2017 edition “The Age of the Earth and Confessional Lutheranism” in which Concordia University Nebraska professor Dr. John Jurchen posed the possibility of “day/age theory” as an acceptable interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.

As a result, two districts blew up and called for discipline of both the professor and the Journal for printing it. Jurchen and the Journal had to make a public mea culpa along with a public retraction and statement of contrition. When things are not in line with what we call a “plain reading” of the Genesis account, this is how we react.

So in answer to Dr. @Swamidass questions 2 and 3, this is what it’s like being a theistic evolutionist in the LCMS context. We can’t “do science”. As for the right theological way to affirm evolution from the foundation of LCMS theology, I think that can’t be done until the “either/or” thinking is removed. Currently, it’s either one believes in 6 day creation, or one espouses random undirected evolution by default. There is no in between because we as a church don’t really see a middle ground. Strange because we Lutherans love to hold apparently opposing ideas in tension, Law and Gospel, Sinner and Saint, Now and Not Yet.

We also like to keep things distinct, like our doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, which might actually have application here. Just as we think in terms of the distinct functions of Church and State, why we can’t maintain the same distinct functions of the scientific and theological vocations is beyond me. My feeling is that we’ve doubled down so much on our doctrinal stance as Pieper defined it, that we are not going to easily find a way out without escalation on both sides.

Thank you for having this conversation. It’s important. Hopefully more LCMS Lutherans will discover BioLogos and quietly find comfort in what it offers. I really don’t want to go elsewhere because in the whole, our theology is our gift to the Christian church. I’m not at home anywhere else. But on this issue of Creation, I must follow the truth of God’s second book of Nature. Here I stand. God help me, I can do no other.

(Phil) #55

Enjoyed your comments. I have several Lutheran friends, and that is helpful in understanding where their church stands. They recently had astronaut Charles Duke speak at their church, and when it came up in questions he was quick to affirm a young earth.
Welcome to the forum. I am hopeful you will find this an inviting community to explore some of your thoughts, and we are better having you here!


Thanks for the welcome, Phil. Yes, also astronaut Col. Jeffery Williams is another popular person who has some beautiful photography from space in a book called “The Work of His Hands: A View of God’s Creation from Space” available through Concordia Publishing. He also espouses a young earth literal view. I’m at this moment listening to a program I usually love on KFUO called Sharper Iron which is doing a series on Genesis all of which reinforces everything I mentioned earlier. For anyone with the time and curiosity it’s available here:

Thinking more about the theological grounds question, our doctrine of not only the Two Kingdoms but the Priesthood of All Believers is helpful as well. Essentially, that means all believers are equally priests of God fulfilling his purposes in the practices of their God-given vocations. Some are called to be pastors and theologians. Others are called to be scientists. Neither is less a priest of Christ than another. Both should listen to the other. And both should not bear false witness against each other by misrepresenting the other’s intentions.

Secondly, Lutherans need to be assured that there is no conflict between an allegorical view of Genesis and biblical authority. That’s a tougher nut to crack.

Lastly, I’ll mention our doctrine of the Real Presence because it may have some application. It’s sacramental language LCMS Lutherans are familiar with. We use the terms “in and with” or “in, with, and under” the elements of water, bread and wine to demonstrate that God is truly present. It is the Word of God “comprehended” in and with these elements that make them more than mere elements. Let’s extrapolate that idea without going into pantheism. God the Creator is truly immanent in creation. He is in with and under the elements of DNA, RNA, atoms, molecules directing the “dust of the Earth” in bringing about his good Creation. He is still creating and sustaining it by His Word today for in him “all things hold together”.

(Jonathan) #57

Greetings, @EvolvingLutheran!

I really like this article from David Adams and Charles Arand concerning Genesis and the origins debate:

Enjoy! :wink:


Thanks for the article, Jonathan! I give accolades to Charles Arand for continuing to tackle the issue after the Jurchen debacle the previous year. He seems to be a thoughtful man.

I love how he is presenting the context in which Moses was writing and the distinction made between the other Ancient Middle-Eastern origin stories, tying it to the sabbatical week. Later, however, as I’m sure you noticed, the authors still struggle to address the issues of animal death before the fall, the Flood, and the meaning of literal day, all of which are dealt with so nicely in BioLogos material I’ve found here.

It seems a fairly good representation of how we’re still trying to work it out both ways.



Greetings, from a fellow Lutheran in Canada.

I echo much of what you’ve said and find myself in essential agreement. I believe the next year or so in Missouri Synod circles will be very important to see how we will, or will not, allow for this discussion in our circles.


Amen brother.

I’m hopeful just by the fact that people like you are here. If it’s true that 50% of our rank and file are leaning in the same way, that with much prayer and gentleness our pastors and professors can safely engage that dialog without escalation.